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Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sen. Clinton is wrong choice for State

November 19, 2008

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— It may be moot and it certainly is presumptuous, but I would be less than honest with readers if I did not say what I believe: Making Hillary Rodham Clinton the secretary of state in Barack Obama’s administration would be a mistake.

I do not doubt she could do the job — and do it well. I have been a fan of the former first lady’s since I covered her efforts for health care reform 15 years ago. What I saw in the recent campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination was convincing evidence of her physical stamina and moral courage and of her capacity to improve her own performance at every step of the process. I admired her readiness to endorse and campaign hard for Obama after her own candidacy fell short.

Equally, I admire Obama’s readiness to reach out to former rivals and enlist their help in the governing enterprise he is launching. His serious discussions with Clinton, John McCain and Bill Richardson, among others, are testaments to his sincerity in wanting to move beyond the partisanship and personal differences that too often poison the atmosphere in Washington.

What, then, is the problem? Clinton is the wrong person for that job in this administration. It’s not the best use of her talents and it’s certainly not the best fit for this new president.

What Obama wants and needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations. One of the principal reasons he was elected was that, relying on his own instincts, he came to the correct conclusion that war with Iraq was not in America’s interest. He was more right about that than most of us in Washington, including Hillary Clinton.

Of course, he will benefit from the counsel and the contacts that his secretary of state can offer. But remember, he provided another and probably more expert source of that wisdom when he picked Joe Biden, the veteran chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as his vice president. The last thing Obama needs is a secretary of state carving out an independently based foreign policy. He needs an agent, not an author.

Even if Hillary Clinton were ready to play such a subordinate role, which she might be, in return for a promise that her voice would be heard in the most serious policy debates, the presence of Bill Clinton makes that a doubly difficult assignment. The former president has, through the Clinton Global Initiative and his own extensive foreign travels and worldwide contacts, made himself a force in international affairs. It would be unfair, and unlikely, for him to shut down his own private foreign policy actions because they might conflict with his wife’s responsibilities. But foreign leaders would inevitably see Bill Clinton as an alternative route toward influencing American policy. And he is unlikely to remain silent.

Some commentators have suggested that Hillary Clinton is frustrated by her lack of seniority in the Senate and the fact that she is not yet a chairman of any of the committees handling big policy areas. I find that a curious notion.

Her influence, which is vast, does not rest on seniority. It rests on the respect she has won from colleagues in both parties for her hard work, her preparation and her mastery of the substance of policy. Senators want her support for their efforts, and they are — both Republicans and Democrats — eager to join hers, because they know she commands a unique audience both in the Capitol and across the country. That was true in the past and it is even more true after the impressive campaign she ran for the presidential nomination.

If Clinton can be of service to Obama in Foggy Bottom, she can be of even greater value as an ally on Capitol Hill.

I hope that is where she will be when January rolls around.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

jaywalker 6 years ago

Interesting column. I was mildly surprised when Hillary's name came up for State, always thought she was stronger on domestic policy than foreign. And I'm torn on whether a Clinton 'team' would be a positive or negative, though Bill was fairly well liked globally in his day, and his political savvy is unparalleled. You just know he wouldn't be a background player. My father, a retired Army colonel, has been advocating a General Jim Jones from the Marine Corps. He's crossed paths with him a couple times and a number of his contacts in the service hold him in the highest regard. Apparently his name has been bandied about as well. Arguably the most important appointee for our President-elect.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

We need someone who correctly sees the military/industrial/national security apparatus as an albatross around this country's neck. Best person I know that fits that bill right now is Andrew Bacevich, and he'd be great as either Sec of State or Defense.

formerfarmer 6 years ago

"What Obama wants and needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy."What is Obama's foreign policy. I sure his vast knowledge comes from his years of experience.

jaywalker 6 years ago

"We need someone who correctly sees the military/industrial/national security apparatus as an albatross around this country's neck."Yes, by all means our military and national security are wholly unimportant. Our bases around the world serve no purpose, the countries and shipping lanes we protect hold no bearing on the success and stability of ours and the global economy. The 'arms race' we 'won' ( I understand the oxymoronic implications of that phrase, please don't beat me over the head with it) had nothing to do with the fall of the USSR. And we were so much better off when Bill decided to cut back severely on military spending, hamstring the military, the FBI, CIA, and NSA so that Al Qaeda could grow and flourish throughout the '90's and lead to the horrific attacks in NYC and DC, not to mention around the world, that we should definitely loose this 'albatross' from around our neck.

jaywalker 6 years ago

That being said, bozo, I actually like Bacevich and he would probably make a good Sec. of State.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

If Bacevich had the power, he would dismantle the military and the national security apparatus as they currently exist.Read his latest book, The Limits of Power, the End of American Exceptionalism, if you want to read a compelling argument of why they are such an albatross around our neck, and how they have been used as a substitute for Americans learning to live within their means.BTW, he is a self-described conservative, and a retired army colonel, so this isn't some lefty diatribe. His criticism is equally distributed between Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

There sure are a lot of ex-Clinton people being named to the O'dude's new regime. Be cool now.

Eileen Jones 6 years ago

I hope she turns the job down. Anybody whose husband has to change his activities so she can be vetted isn't right. Do they think there are no Clinton loyalties just because the business activities pause for 4 years?

jaywalker 6 years ago

You do realize, bozo, that at State he won't wield that power, right? I figure you do.As to your last statement, that's one of the reasons I like him so much and think he'd be a good fit. Plus, if we're gonna change things it'd be nice to have a calm, centrist figure dealing globally.

BuffyloGal 6 years ago

Is it our protection of shipping lanes that let a Somalian pirate ship attack an oil freighter that we were escorting just yesterday? I realize that one must read something other than our local rag to find out what is happening in other parts of the world, but there is a big world out there nonetheless. Thank goodness for the mighty Indian army who later intercepted those same pirates. Yes, our tax dollars are well spent.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

I'd not heard that the USN was escorting that tanker. BTW, if our Navy had blown away a pirate ship, the whining & moaning for the poor pirates from the hate-American-first crowd would be deafening.

Alia Ahmed 6 years ago

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says… “The former president has, through the Clinton Global Initiative and his own extensive foreign travels and worldwide contacts, made himself a force in international affairs.”And a whole lotta money.Alia says.......I thought capitalism was good, Tom?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"You do realize, bozo, that at State he (Bacevich) won't wield that power, right? I figure you do."True, although I think he would be able to move us towards using the State Dept. to address foreign policy rather than relying so heavily on saber rattling and general intimidation.I like his overall clear analysis of what got us to where we are, and how while there are significant degrees of difference in how Democrats and Republicans have approached things, the difference can really only be measured in degrees. Both parties have relied too heavily on what he terms Wise Men, which really just means inside-the-beltway group think.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

"...Wise Men, which really just means inside-the-beltway group think."Such as all the lobbyist guys that the O'dude is tapping for his new regime?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"Such as all the lobbyist guys that the O'dude is tapping for his new regime?"Unfortunately, the answer may be yes. Most of his appointments remain to be made, and we don't know how his personal leadership style will affect the tendency towards group think that has characterized Washington since the military/national security complex began to dominate at the beginning of WWII. Maybe he really will change things, or maybe it'll just be a warmed over DLC/Third Way Clinton administration.

BuffyloGal 6 years ago

BTW, if our Navy had blown away a pirate ship, the whining & moaning for the poor pirates from the hate-American-first crowd would be deafening.No one whines about pirates. However, your suggested response of "blowing them away" perhaps is the problem here. Lucky thing they're not considering snap for Sec of State!

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

I've no lobbyist or Clinto-era connections & didn't bundle millions of dollars of illegal contributions to the O'dude's campaign. The O'dude will be too busy repaying favors to be interested in Americans such as me.

preebo 6 years ago

I can understand the political reason for choosing Sen. Clinton, but as a person who finds themself more on the policy side, I am more interested in seeing the current New Mexico Governor, William Richardson, as the next Secretary of State. There are many more reasons, both political and policy, for choosing Fmr. Amb. Richardson for the post. Any number of which should be based on his foreign policy views, international experience as well as executive experience, Oh yeah, and his time as the Secretary of Energy would be an added bonus. I adore Sen. Clinton and believe that she would be a great asset to the Obama Administration, but I find her to be a more suitable candidate to the Health and Human Services post, considering her dedication to Universal Health Care in America.From a personal stance, this is my first disappointment, however mild, from President-Elect Obama.

AjiDeGallina 6 years ago

Clinton, Bush's and Regans Secretaries of State have endorsed Senator Clinton.

RedwoodCoast 6 years ago

This is somewhat off subject, but under how many names does Tom Shewmon post?

Mixolydian 6 years ago

Broder writes:"He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations."====================uhhh, yeah...he does.I thought that was the whole reason for the Biden selection. Broder must have dropped his stack of talking point note cards and got them back inthe wrong order.

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